Here’s how to start a WordPress blog and make money for absolute blogging beginners! But first, let’s look at a few questions you might have regarding blogging.
- Why blogging?
- Why WordPress?
- How to start a WordPress blog
- How to make money with a blog
- Final thoughts
That’s a fair question and many people think that blogging is saturated. Here are some reasons I personally prefer blogging, even compared with other forms of digital channels:
- Attract your target audience: Blogs are searchable on Google and other search engines. Blogging allows you to potentially reach billions of people all over the world that use the internet.
- Establish authority: Blogging about important and current topics in your niche can help you establish authority in the space.
- Make money: You can monetize your blog in various ways like affiliate marketing or selling your own digital products. In many ways, it’s easier to monetize a blog than to monetize an Instagram account for example (you can only create one external link), or a YouTube channel (most people don’t click on links).
- Own channel: Your blog is your own channel that cannot be taken away from you. If you only blog on Facebook, for example, your entire business is gone if Facebook decides to shut your account down.
- Custom features: With a blog, you can pretty much customize the features you want, in a ways no other channel can. For example, your blog can incorporate discussion forums or a chatbot.
Once you’re convinced that blogging is for you, you need to decide on a blogging platform. Based on my years of digital marketing experience, WordPress is by far the best blogging platform to make money.
- WordPress is free. You only need to pay for hosting (which starts from just $2.95/month).
- It’s relatively easy to use and set up. Hosting companies like Bluehost and SiteGround offer one-click installation options.
- There are many templates – free and paid – that can make a beautiful, unique blog.
- It’s highly extendable and customizable. In the future, you can always add new interesting features that add value to your blog. You can’t do that for other blogging platforms like Wix and Weebly. Many of the extended features (known as “plugins”) are free as well.
- For monetization, it’s critical you avoid free platforms, as they often have limitations that will impact your blog’s ability to monetize.
- You’re in good company – more than 60% of bloggers use WordPress.
How to start a WordPress blog
Now, let’s go through the exact steps on how to start a WordPress blog.
1. Choose your blog’s niche
First, you gotta choose a niche. Read why it’s important to choose a niche.
It’s important that you choose one that can be monetized, yet is still something you are passionate about.
The main categories where most of the money is made in blogging:
Under each of these main categories are niches and sub-niches.
For example, under Health, you could have broad niches like bodybuilding, nutrition, weight loss, yoga, etc. I generally recommend that your blog be broad enough to cover a single niche.
Yet, when you first start out, I think it’s a good idea to focus on a particular sub-niche (also known as micro-niche) before you branch out into other sub-niches within the main niche.
Examples of sub-niches under bodybuilding might include home gyms, supplements for bodybuilders, female bodybuilding, etc.
Why? Because when you first start out, it’s hard to compete with the established blogs if your blog is too “general”. It’s often easier to find a niche audience if your blog is more “niched”, as the competition is lower.
Also, you do need to be passionate about the niche that you are blogging about. Otherwise, you will most likely give up too easily when the going gets tough (which it will from time to time!).
2. Pick a domain name
Once you have chosen a niche, now it’s time to pick a domain name.
I usually get my domains from Namecheap.com. You can also check availability there. Hint: Most of the “obvious” names are usually taken for .com domains. You need to be a bit creative in coming up with a domain name!
Here are some guidelines on choosing a domain name:
- Try to keep it short as empirical evidence has shown Google tends to favor shorter domain names. A long, keyword-stuffed domain name belongs to the last millennium and looks spammy.
- Try to get .com extension if you can. A good alternative is .co, but it’s typically more expensive and is subject to typos. Another alternative is .blog, but this would mean your website HAS to remain a blog forever. I would stay away from spammy-looking domain extensions like .xyz, .biz, .info, etc. A lot of low-quality spam websites are hosted on these extensions because they are cheap. BUT Google has clarified that the domain extension or even the domain name doesn’t matter in search engine optimization (SEO). However, it could still affect the online perception of your website.
- It’s the 2020s. There’s no need to stuff your domain name with keywords like in the past for SEO purposes. You can create a totally new word or brand name like Freedomholic.
- That said, if you are creating a brand name, it’s still a good idea to have a name that represents what your niche or website is about, for better brand recall.
- Can’t think of a name that is .com available? Try these tools: leandomainsearch.com, panabee.com
- If you really cannot think of a name, you may want to consider your own name and brand your blog around yourself! On one hand, it’s generally easier to brand a person but you will be the face of your blog. On the other hand, you will not be able to sell your blog in the future – not a problem if you don’t have any intention to sell.
Domain name registration usually renews every year.
3. Get your hosting
Next, you want to get web hosting to host your website. This is the server where you put all your website files.
I recommend either of these web hosts:
- Bluehost – Great for newbies who want the lowest price possible
- SiteGround – If you don’t mind paying a bit more for slightly more advanced features
If you are just starting out, I recommend starting off with the cheapest shared hosting plan. That is sufficient for most of us. You can always upgrade later as your traffic grows.
4. Set up WordPress
Once you get your web hosting, you can then set up WordPress.
WordPress is a platform where you can create your blog and write blog posts. It is the most popular platform for blogging and is very easy to use.
If you use Bluehost or SiteGround, you will be able to install WordPress in literally just a single click. They have good customer support too, so if you are stuck anytime, simply reach out to the friendly support to get immediate assistance.
After you install WordPress, you should configure a few basic things for your blog:
- Site title
5. Pick your blog’s theme
Now for the fun part – choosing a theme! A WordPress theme is basically the design or look and feel of your blog.
Choosing the right theme is important, not just for aesthetic reasons, but also because of website speed and stability.
Here are my criteria when choosing a theme:
- Design: Does it match the desired look and feel of your blog?
- Page Builder: Most themes either come with an integrated page builder or they support one, which will allow you to build your page design visually without coding. The two most popular page builders are Elementor and DIVI. Elementor is a standalone page builder that still requires a theme to work. My recommendation is to simply get DIVI, which is a theme itself that comes with a really user-friendly page builder.
- Speed: Is the theme lightweight and fast? Are there any customer complaints about its speed? You can test the theme’s sample pages on speed test sites like GTMetrix or WebPageTest
- Popularity: Is the theme popular and used by thousands of customers? If the theme is unpopular, the developer might not be able to support it over the long term
- Customizability: Is the theme flexible enough to be customized to your design needs without the need for coding?
- Reviews: Watch out for customer reviews of the theme and see what other people are saying, especially the negative things. Caveat: Sometimes reviews can be gamed and should not be trusted 100% (e.g. negative reviews on ThemeForest can be removed by theme authors)
My favorite theme, which is used by this blog and many other websites I built, is DIVI by ElegantThemes. Using DIVI makes creating your website super fun and easy!
6. Install WordPress plugins
WordPress plugins help to extend the functionality of your blog or website so that you can have some extra features not found in a blank WordPress installation.
While it’s tempting to install many interesting plugins, I would caution against installing too many or unnecessary ones.
The reason? Plugins can slow down your website which mars the user experience. Worse, some improperly coded plugins can also crash your website.
So I only install plugins that are absolutely necessary. Here’s my recommended list of must-have plugins:
- Redirection: It’s important to set up redirects whenever you change URLs so that people do not get an error when they land on an old URL that no longer exists.
- ShortPixel Image Optimizer: This is a paid plugin but is extremely useful in compressing and optimizing your images so that loading your images doesn’t slow down to a crawl. You just need to set up once and forget about it.
- WP Fastest Cache: This is a caching plugin that caches your website so that it loads faster. It is super easy to configure, literally takes just a few clicks.
- The SEO Framework: This plugin helps your website with better search engine optimization (SEO). You can also use a more popular alternative, Yoast SEO.
- Wordfence Security: Websites are vulnerable to hackers and attacks every day. Having a security plugin like Wordfence protects your website from such attacks.
If you use a theme OTHER than DIVI, you may find yourself having to install more plugins like form plugins, page builder plugins, etc. Hence, I do highly recommend the DIVI Theme, as it already integrates many basic features you need in a website.
7. Plan out your blog’s structure
This is something that is super important, yet isn’t discussed enough. Your blog’s structure is really important, not just from a user experience point of view, but also from Google’s perspective.
A simple and organized blog structure allows Google to find and index your webpages easier.
Getting it right from the start is crucial, as changing your structure later may adversely impact your blog’s SEO.
First, you want to decide what kind of content and pages your blog will have, now and perhaps in the future. Examples are:
- Blog posts, stories, and articles
- Services that you provide
- Products that you sell
- Affiliate marketing offers or links
Then you want to decide how to organize these content in terms of their URLs or what we call “permalinks”.
- Blog posts: /blog/sample-post/
- Services: /services/sample-service/
- Products: /products/sample-product/
- Affiliate links: /go/sample-affiliate/
- Miscellaneous page: /sample-page/
These examples are written relative to your main domain name. For instance, if your domain is freedomholic.com, then your blog posts will be in freedomholic.com/blog/sample-post/.
There is no right or wrong here. For example, some people prefer to have blog posts to reside in the root of the domain instead of using a /blog subdirectory, like in the case of Freedomholic.
But you do want to be consistent so that your users and Google are not confused. Also, it’s good to keep your URLs shorter rather than longer, as this seems to be an SEO ranking factor.
To change your permalink structure, go to Settings > Permalinks.
8. Start writing content
Now you can finally start writing.
Spend 5 minutes to brainstorm all the content you wish to write.
Then organize the content by categories. You can create categories in WordPress (Posts > Categories) to better organize your posts.
What are the top 5 pieces of content that are evergreen and always be interesting to your audience?
Plan to write those first. Don’t try to be perfect. Write a draft, publish it, and then revise it again as you go along.
There is SEO benefit in publishing a post earlier before it’s perfect.
How to make money with a blog
Once you start getting readers and traction with your blog, it’s time to think about monetization.
Here are the most common ways bloggers monetize their blogs:
1. Google Adsense
Google AdSense works by displaying other advertisers’ ads on your blog. When a reader clicks on an ad, you get paid. You’ll need to have a working blog first before you can get approved.
2. Sponsored ads
You can also welcome advertisers to place advertisements directly with you for a fixed monthly fee. When readers click on those ads, they are brought to the advertisers’ websites.
3. Sponsored content
Instead of writing your own articles, you can offer to write sponsored articles on behalf of advertisers for a fee, in order to promote their products or services.
4. Affiliate marketing
You can make money by marketing other people’s products, and when your readers click on your unique affiliate links and buy those products, you get a commission on that purchase. This is known as affiliate marketing.
5. Selling your own services
This is a great, direct way to make an income initially off your blog. Put up the services that you offer, and leave a way for people to contact you if interested. You can start freelancing work or a consulting business on the side.
6. Selling your own products
If you have an interest in e-commerce, you can also sell your own products on your blog. You may need to set up payment gateways like PayPal and Stripe to accept credit card payments, and also set up a shopping cart software like WooCommerce.
Starting a blog is a great, low-cost way to learn how to make money online as a beginner.
It does take time to generate traffic, so be patient. In the meantime, you can generate fast cash by starting a digital marketing agency and applying what you learned.